Working memory and fluid intelligence
- What is fluid intelligence?
- Is IQ fixed or can it be improved with training?
What is Fluid Intelligence?
How Working Memory Impacts IQ
While scientists have always argued that IQ is baked into our DNA at birth, new research is finding that certain aspects of intelligence are influenced by working memory, a cognitive skill that can be exercised. And so, by association, this research suggests IQ is not really fixed.
Fluid intelligence is the ability to reason quickly and to think abstractly.
Working memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information to produce some result or reasoning processes. It is important in higher-order thinking, learning, and achievement. It is also important for cognitive flexibility and planning ability, as well as learning and the ability to self-monitor.
Three Parts of Working Memory
1/ The "phonological loop" -- saying things in your head to hold them -- which serves an auditory processing and practicing function, tied to the speech centers of the brain and language development.
2/ The "visuospatial sketchpad" or a visual analysis and processing part that serves as an internal laboratory for visualizing problems and solutions. Einstein's Theory of Relativity was largely developed in his head with complicated visualizations. This is another working memory and IQ link.
3/ The "central executive" that controls these two parts, to facilitate coordinated reasoning, comprehension, learning, and decision making, sometimes allowing rote habit to direct us while it works on other things, another working memory and IQ link.
About 50% of the growth in fluid intelligence from age 7-19 is associated with working memory, mainly associated with processing speed development.
Working Memory and IQ
Processing speed in part determines how long it takes information to be called up from long-term memory. Slowed processing means information in working memory deteriorates while it waits for information from long-term memory to arrive, while faster processing (recalling memorized information like your times tables, letter and number recognition) means that working memory (and the skills that draw upon it like reading and math) is more effective.
Improvements in processing speed support gains in working memory, which support developments in fluid intelligence, although this is not a simple step-wise process.